Wednesday, August 21, 2019

CLASSIC TRIP - Kennedy Space Center, Florida 1998

For those of you who would like to take a break from the onslaught of tourism that is Orlando, Kennedy Space Center makes a wonderful day trip just 45 minutes away. Although advertised as being a 2 hour tour, plan on a whole day here.  I've tried to update the original 1998 information for 2010.


When arriving at the visitor's center, you will be confronted with possibly the world's only wheelchair accessible space vehicle...an actual space shuttle conveniently fitted with a ramped and elevator equipped tower allowing you access to all parts of the shuttle (see picture above).

Of course, the one thing everybody wants to see on the shuttle is the bathroom. You won't be disappointed...you'll get a front row seat for a view. It's amazing that 7 crew members can actually fit in the cramped quarters - most of the shuttle space is given over to cargo room and mechanics. This alone is worth the trip over but is just the beginning.

Starting off at the visitor's center, which separate from the tour of the spaceport itself is free (not any more - Ed), you can wander about the amazing museum here. Aside from the shuttle mentioned above is the outstanding Rocket Garden which displays examples of some of our nation's most famous rockets.

Those of you traveling in wheelchairs needn't worry a bit about visiting here. Every facility is superbly accessible. Handicapped parking abounds right in front of the gate to the visitor's center. Accessible restrooms are just inside and all parts of the facility are ramped. There are also twin IMAX theaters that show great movies such as "The Dream is Alive" that have special seating reserved for wheelers...none of that stadium-style seating front row business that you are forced to endure at the local multiplex.

Tim demonstrates the wheelchair access on NASA's tour buses.
The panel behind him swings away and a lift pops out from the compartment below.

After seeing the highlights of the visitor center, you'll want to jump aboard one of the huge lift-equipped buses to tour the actual space center. This is the only knock I have on the center's accessibility, and it's really just a small one. Not every bus in the fleet is lift equipped. Only about every 3rd bus is (all buses are now lift equipped - Ed).

Once on your way, the tour makes three main stops. You spend as much time at each one as you want, and then catch another bus to the next stop. It is at this point that you may have to wait for 2 or 3 buses before a lift-equipped bus will show up. (Each accessible bus has tie-downs for two chairs)
Now, on with the tour.

Once on the bus, an audio track is played featuring NASA astronauts explaing features and highlights of the facility. On the way to the first stop, you will pass the mammoth shuttle assembly building which is much bigger that needed because it originally was designed for the Saturn V booster that sent men to the moon. Recycled and refurbished it now serves present day needs.

Next to that is a smaller building with blast louvers on the windows. This is mission control where you see all those technicians at their computer monitors during a blast off. Parked out back is the biggest ground vehicle I've ever seen. This monster-sized tracked vehicle is the shuttle transport vehicle which carries assembled space shuttles out to the launch pad at a blistering 1 mile per hour.

After a drive by look at the famous digital countdown clock, you arrive at your first destination...the launching pad viewing platform.

After a quick movie showing how shuttle are prepared for flight and an actual blast off, you saunter out to the three story platform. An elevator will take you to any level you desire.

This is the closest the public is allowed to an actual launching pad due to the hazardous materials found there. There are two pads, the closest about 1/2 a mile away and the farther one about a mile. You can see them well and telescopes are mounted on the platform for a close-up view.

This is the shuttle that carried the first piece of the International Space Station sitting on the pad.

On our visit in October of 1998, the closer pad held the shuttle that was to be launched in December carrying the first piece of the International Space Station. The farther pad held the shuttle that in a week's time would carry John Glenn on his historic return to space. As a history buff, being at the epicenter of a place where history was being made was a thrill beyond measure.

This is the shuttle that carried John Glenn back to space sitting on it's pad.

Back on the bus after this stop, we pass by the shuttle landing strip and are told that the road we are on is the actual taxi way the shuttles use to be towed back to the assembly building. Just beyond that, the driver points out an alligator lounging in a water-filled roadside ditch. Then it's on to stop number two, the Saturn V display building.

Here we are noticing that are time is slipping away. We had scheduled 4 hours for this tour and then had to head back to Orlando to catch a flight home. Now is the time I realize that it's not enough to expect the tour to take only 2 hours as advertised. We were already hear that long and were only getting to the second stop. Clearly we'd have to trim some time. There is a movie you can watch about the Saturn V, but we skipped that and headed into the building.

The Saturn V's nozzles can't even fit into one picture

You may think you know how big the Saturn V is but until you've seen the actual thing, nothing can prepare you for it. The only complete Saturn V built that was never used (it was made for one more Apollo mission that was scrubbed), it lies on its side in this massive hall specially built for it. Over 3 football fields long, the booster has five gigantic rocket nozzles in it's base that provided enough thrust to lob men all the way to the moon. It is so big that I could not get those five nozzles into one picture no matter how far back I stood.

There is also a fantastic multimedia show highlighting the first trip to the moon back in 1969. Two moon rocks are on display, one you can touch, along with a lunar rover and an actual used apollo capsule. The cafeteria is here along with the requisite gift shop.

The last stop on the tour was the International Space Station assembly building where you can see components of the station being prepared for flight. As we were completely out of time, we stayed on the bus here and headed back to our car parked at the visitor's center to catch our flight home. (The space station is now orbiting around Earth so this is no longer an option - Ed)

Kennedy Space Center is located about 45 miles due east of Orlando next to the town of Titusville. It's a quick and scenic drive along the Beeline Expressway toll road (about $3 in tolls each way) to the center.

Back in 1998, admission to the visitor's center museum was free, but the tour was $14/adults and $10/kids under 12 and also includes another tour to historic Cape Canaveral where our space program began. Not any more.  General admission, which includes the space center tour is now approaching $60 for adults and $50 for children (there are a few discounts such as senior and military, be sure to ask).  The web site link at the top also describes how you can watch shuttle launches live and has a schedule of upcoming blast offs.

-Darryl
Copyright 1998/2010 - Darryl Musick

Monday, August 19, 2019

We'll Get There Fast So We Can Take It Slow: The Florida Keys


We're really racking up the miles on our Southwest Rapid Rewards accounts this week. This is the third flight in that time span, this time from Houston's Hobby Airport to Fort Lauderdale.

It's an early pickup from the hotel so we forgo breakfast there to get it at the airport. Unfortunately, Hobby..at least the terminal we're in...is not one of those that has a decent, sit-down breakfast place to relax it. It's yogurt and fruit in the terminal waiting area.




Southwest again steps up to the plate with helpful access to the plane and a pleasant, on-time flight. A little over two hours later, we're deplaning in Florida.



While the flight was just peaches and cream, the car rental counter not so much. About 50 people in line with two agents checking in at a counter that was built to accommodate at least a dozen. 


Eventually, video terminals were set up so agents in remote areas could check us in online. My agent was in Arizona. 


It was a short stroll from there to pick up our Grand Caravan which, although nice, was not as nice as the two Nissan Rogues we had in Texas. A touch more expensive, too.


Programming our hotel's location into the GPS, we follow the on-board voice of reason to be on our way. Soon, we are not on our way too well. On the Reagan Turnpike, which has billboards along the way calling itself the "Less Stressway," we pay for the privilege of sitting in non-moving traffic. 

Eventually, we clear the clogged traffic south of Miami and finally get moving. At Homestead, the turnpike ends. The road narrows, and we get into the swampy area of south Florida and signs warning of crocodiles crossing the road before we get to the first bridge taking us from the mainland to the first of Florida's southern islands, the Keys.

This first key is to be our base for the next week, Key Largo.



After a couple of hours, we end up at today's destination, the Hampton Inn in Key Largo near the top end of the Florida Keys (at the top I referred to our accumulating points on Southwest, I should also note that our Hilton HHonors account is getting a very healthy boost these couple of weeks).

Not able to book an accessible room here, I took a chance after getting the details of the regular rooms and booked us a junior suite. It'll do, barely, at it seems they took a regular room, crammed a king sized bed along with a sofabed, a table and chairs, and a small coffee and microwave center. 

The bathroom will be adequate, though, and the manager sends up a bath chair for Tim.



Being on the beach, the room and the hotel in general smell a little musty but there's a nice beach here, a pool with a lift, and a tiki bar separating the two.

It's not near as nice as the hotel we just left in Houston but it is nice enough. It'll do.

One thing I promised Letty when we came here, she can eat as much seafood as she wanted (I'm not a fish lover) while we were here so our first stop is to go across the street for dinner.

"Street" is a relative term here. It is the only road to cross, indeed the only road through Key Largo, but that road is the heavily traveled Overseas Highway. It takes a little patience and planning but we do eventually find a spot to cross over between traffic.

Dinner is at the Catch, a laid back diner with a beach vibe to it although it's not on the beach side of the road. 



Letty has a very nice crab cake dinner, Tim goes with fish and chips, while I get the cheeseburger. We just missed happy hour so the beer is full price but it's still very delicious and reasonable.

After the afternoon of traveling, we retire back at the Hampton to relax and create a plan of attack for the rest of our time in south Florida.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 18, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: South Florida Drinking Tour


You regulars might be a bit disappointed but we really didn't hit too many bars on our recent foray to the Keys but we did hit three you might be interested in checking out.


Watch the Video!

We start off in the Conch Republic of Key West, home of the perpetual Spring Break. I had a goal here to try a true daiquiri in the land of Hemmingway.

My unscientific method of finding that...consisting of talking to the local coffee shop owner where I had breakfast...confirmed that I should skip Duval Street and the usual tourist joints like Sloppy Joes and head to a backwater bar.



Blue Heaven was the recommendation I got for Key West's most authentic version. Made from scratch using only local Key lime juice, rum, and simple syrup, these hit the spot on this very hot, southern Florida day.  The bar itself sits in the back courtyard of a few buildings, a tropical garden hidden from the street.

Great place to spend a few minute escaping from the maddening crowd of Duval Street.



But, we can't come to Key West and not take a stroll down the infamous Duval Street. When our whistles need wetting again, it's over to the Flying Monkeys Saloon. Here, a bank of frozen drink mixers sit behind the bar with a dozen or so alcoholic concoctions and one non-alcoholic blend to slake the heat and thirst that this city inspires.

Tim has their non-alcoholic drink, a glass filled with an extra sweet blue goo (which is where he gets that very blue tongue in the picture above) while Letty and I go with the Yuengling beer that is so prevalent in Florida.



Later in the week, it's mojitos at Mango's Tropical Bar in South Beach where we find a quiet spot to sip and watch the beautiful people walk by.

It's all in the video, above, come along and take a ride with us as we sip our way up from the Keys.

-Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserve

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Viking's Trek: Vikingsholm - Lake Tahoe, California

Letty Musick - Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

Let's get the big question out of the way first, Lora Knight's Scandinavian castle on the lake is not accessible. You will not be able to get your wheelchair into the house. Still, it's a worthwhile visit when you're in the Tahoe area.


Watch the Video!



Rangers, docents, and volunteers aren't fully aware of what is and is not accessible. We made arrangements for, and were even charged full price, for a tour only to find out at the door of the house that Tim would not be able to go inside (you need to be able to navigate 2 or 3 stairs to get into the living room where the main part of the guided tour takes place).

Luckily, we were refunded our ticket price and, while Letty got the full tour, Tim and I were able to pick around the edges and see a few things like the garage and a few staff quarters.  More on that later.



Vikingsholm is a Scandinavian style castle built on the shore of Lake Tahoe at the foot of the stunning Emerald Bay. It was built in 1928 by Lora Knight and has 38 rooms with every amenity you could think of just before the depression hit.

Offshore is Tahoe's only island, where Mrs. Knight also built a teahouse on the peak.

Normally, you would park in the small parking lot on highway 89 and hike the steep but paved road a bit over a mile down the the edge of the lake where the house sits. If you have a power chair in good condition with fully charged batteries, you should be able to do it.

However, if you call the D.L. Bliss State Park visitor's center ahead of time at (530) 525-7232 you can book a slot to actually drive down to the castle...as long as you have a handicapped license plate or placard. Up to 2 vehicles can go down, escorted by park docents, at 1:00pm each day and return at 3:00pm.

This is what we did.

We were told to be at the visitor's center by 12:30pm. We're leaving Amador County...near Lodi, California...at 9:00am to give us plenty of time. The west shore of Lake Tahoe is 2 hours east of Sacramento, 4 from San Francisco, and about 90 minutes from Reno. Our drive should take just over 2 hours so this should give us plenty of time and we can get a bite of breakfast and take a bathroom break along the way.

There are three routes from the west, Interstate 80 and highway 50 both go from Sacramento but we like to take the more scenic and less crowded highway 88, also known as Carson Pass.



In April, we came through here and the snow was ten feet high on each side of the road. Now, in July, the snow's all gone but the grass is green and there's an abundance of wildflowers.


While it might be tough for cars to climb that almost nine thousand foot pass, we're fine and soon we're arriving in the city of South Lake Tahoe. We make a quick stop for a bit at McDonalds before continuing on to the D.L. Bliss State Park visitor's center.

It's just after noon. I pay my $10 parking fee and then we wait for our guides. At 12:30, Cheryl and Bob arrive, volunteers for the state park. They'll lead the way, unlock the gates, and guide us down the road to the handicapped parking spot at Vikingsholm next to the maintenance shed.

There is supposed to be one more party showing up and we have to wait until just before 1:00pm before leaving. Staff at the park know that no one is to be on the access road going up at that time to reserved the road for ADA visitors to make the transit down on the one-lane road.



The other party never shows up so it's just us and our volunteers. We follow the Subaru to an unmarked spot on the side of the road. Bob gets out, unlocks the gate, and we follow through. Bob locks the gate behind us and away we go.

It's a very narrow road, just enough for our van to squeeze by at times. Someone didn't get the memo because soon we're stopped by a truck coming up the hill. Bob gets out and navigates the offender to a small patch on the side of the road to give us just enough room to pass.

A few minutes later, we're at the bottom and parked. Bob and Cheryl give us a head's up as to where the visitor's center, bathrooms, and ticket office are. They tell us to meet them back here a few minutes before 3pm to make the trip back up and then they leave us.



A paved road leads behind the main house to the visitor's center on the other side. It's not accessible so Tim waits on the porch while I go in to buy tickets. I ask if there is a concession for wheelchair users and am told they go in through the exit but we are still charged full price.



We have five minutes until the tour starts. We go in the exit and wait in the circular driveway of the house for a tour guide to come and meet us. What I don't see is a ramp of any kind, although the step to the door of the house is only two inches high, leading to a one inch threshold to get through the door. Not perfect but doable in Tim's chair.



The guide comes out with a binder full of photographs of the house for Tim to look at.

"Can't he go in the house?" I ask him.

"No, there's a few steps down into the living room where the main portion of the tour takes place," he answers. "One of you can go on the tour and then I'll take the other one while he waits out here."

"We were lead to believe that he would at least be able to see the bottom floor of the house. They did charge us full price for his tour and now we find he can't go in."

There...there's that look when you bring up a big accessible issue with someone who doesn't have a clue.

"They did?" he answers, surprised. "They should have known he couldn't get in, I'll make sure you get a refund."

(They did refund two tour admissions, which cost $15 each.)

So, to recap, The website says to call the number above to make ADA arrangements to go to the castle. The visitor's center tells us we can buy tickets for the accessible tour when we get there. The visitor's center sells us tickets, telling us that wheelchairs just need to go in the exit, the guide tells us it's not possible (but chair users can look at pictures), and now...when we only have 90 minutes to spend here...I have to go back to the visitor's center to waste some more precious time to get my money back.

And people wonder why people with special needs get so frustrated with the world at large sometimes...



Letty goes on the tour while Tim and I wait in the driveway. We're all alone so we start wandering around.

We are able to see this nice 1936 Dodge, used by Mrs. Knight's personal secretary, in the garage.



There are a couple of servant bedrooms near the exit that Tim can see, and he can just get a tiny glimpse of the kitchen through an open door that us up a couple of steps.



I get him into the foyer where he can see this unique clock.



From there, he can peek into the living room and into the dining room.

Letty takes my place and I take a quick swing upstairs to see the bedrooms.

The guide brings the tour group out to the driveway and explains that the house was built here because the surrounding area looks like Norway.

Seeing the large, rocky cliffs behind the house, it's hard to argue that point.

After the tour, we take a walk along the beach. The sand is hard enough and packed enough that Tim can roll his chair along without problems.


I take off my shoes and get my feet wet in the cold, clear lake.

We hike around a little on the trails through the forest, looking for birds, chipmunks, and butterflies.



There's a boat pier where I walk out and check out the small island off shore. The pier is not in a good enough condition for wheelchairs to access but it would not take a lot to fix that.

While the accessibility of the tour was a disappointment...along with the general lack of accessible knowledge among the staff...the area is stunningly beautiful and worth the trip just to spend some time on this tucked away and hard-to-get-to beach on Lake Tahoe.

Back at the van, we have a little snacknic while we wait for our guides. They soon show up, offer deep apologies for the access ("I could have sworn they had a portable ramp for the bottom floor," Bob told us), and we shared some of our home-grown plums with them.

Back up (and, yes, another truck was coming down during the reserved ADA time on the road, causing another delay), we head back over to Hope Valley.

This is one of California's most beautiful spots at the junction of highways 88 and 89, where the Carson River forms up for its journey to Nevada.



Not far from here is the Kirkwood Inn, built as a remote waystation up in the mountains for weary travelers heading over Carson Pass in 1864.



In the room where Showshoe Thompson was a regular, we eat a delicious meal of smoked brisket and chicken poblano soup.

The county line bisects the building so, this bar where Thompson sat, is in Alpine County and the table a few feet away where we sat in the dining area is in Amador County.

Back in our home county, we finish up and head down the hill.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

TRANSIT REPORT: Houston, Texas


Metro is Houston's transit authority and it runs a system of three light rail lines and a web of bus lines through the region.

The light rail system serves the downtown area very well with frequent service to most points of interest. What it fails to do is serve either airport, George H.W. Bush International or Houston Hobby Airport.

Lines come in from the east (Green), south (purple and red) and north (red) and converge on the Main Street/ Fannin corridor downtown.


The system is 100% wheelchair accessible and you can get maps and more information at ridemetro.org.

That is pretty much the entire system, it works well for the city, especially well in the central city, but lacks commuter bus or rail for points farther out.


Fare is $1.25 and is good for three hours.  Disabled fare is $.60. A day pass is $3 but it's a weird way to pay...you must load at least that amount on a fare card (tappable at the station to validate the fare) and, after three taps, the card won't collect any fare past $3.

Find great gifts at WineoftheMonthClub.com!

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tim's Views - Living The Dream On MLB Network

Image courtesy of Wikimedia - public domain

As many of you who follow us and our traveling adventures here on The World on Wheels may know, I consider myself a pretty big sports fan. So much so that I have another blog of my own called Tim's Sports World dedicated to all things sports from my own unique perspective.

When it comes to watching and writing about my views on sports, there is no doubt that the sport I love watching the most is Major League Baseball (MLB). Those of you who know me very well will also know that one of my lifelong goals and dreams as a fan of baseball and as a sports fan in general  has been to see all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and or ballpark throughout my life.

Before the start of the 2017 MLB Season, my parents and I had started discussing potential family vacation plans for the coming year. If I remember correctly, those vacation plan discussions took place during baseball's off season Hot Stove period and during Spring Training 2017 as well. At first, my dad Darryl wanted to go back to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands but then I countered with the suggestion that we should look into doing another MLB ballpark trip so that I could get one or two steps closer to completing and meeting my lifelong goal of seeing all 30 stadiums that Major League Baseball (MLB) has to offer.

To make a long story short, during the course of those early 2017 vacation planning discussions, I came out on top on the winning side and we had settled on a plan to go on a  late April/early May springtime vacation in Texas to both the Dallas/Arlington and Houston areas to go see two more games and ballparks featuring both of the hometown Texas teams in the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros. There was also the added excitement for both games that we would end going to because the Rangers would be playing against the Angels which is my favorite team and the Astros game that we went to would be the first game of the 2017 Silver Boot Series between the aforementioned Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros!

Another important part of this story for me that is worth mentioning is that in addition to being a huge fan of Major League Baseball (MLB) and wanting to achieve my lifelong goal of seeing every major league ballpark, I am also a huge fan and have been for the last several years and counting of the Major League Baseball Network (MLBN).


Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Eric Drost under CC BY 2.0 license

Fast forwarding the story of my own personal major league ballpark quest a little bit, towards the beginning of the 2017 MLB regular season if my memory is correct, one day while tuning in, I noticed that there was a season long MLB Network promotion going while watching the nightly highlights show called Quick Pitch hosted by Heidi Watney. on that was geared towards fans like me of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Network (MLBN) TV channel.  It just so happened that the main purpose of this fan promotion for the Quick Pitch show was that if you tweeted in a picture of yourself from any ballpark or baseball game that you went to during the 2017 MLB regular season with the #quickpitch hashtag on Twitter, then that picture could up end being put on the air for the show for you and all your friends and family's viewing pleasure!

Once I saw that MLB Network and Quick Pitch was doing this kind of promotion for their TV viewing fans on one of their signature daily shows, I knew that I wanted to do everything I could to be a part of it while my family and I were on vacation in Texas and Florida. A few days before we left for our trip, I became even more focused and determined to make a possible appearance on Quick Pitch more of a reality while watching a Facebook Live video that Heidi Watney and the rest of the Quick Pitch production crew did.

In this video, which also gave a little of a behind-the-scenes look at the show, Watney once again reminded the show's fans that they could send in their photos to the network's Twitter page with the required #quickpitch hashtag from any ballpark they went to throughout the 2017 regular season and that those pictures could possibly be shown during the show as a result of sending them in on Twitter. Now armed with more than enough focus and determination to make this possible dream appearance on my favorite baseball TV channel come true, my parents and I set out for a fun Spring baseball games and stadiums vacation of epic proportions deep in the heart of Texas and Florida.



To make sure everything went off relatively smooth and without too many technological hitches and or obstacles, I enlisted the help of my dad Darryl to be my designated official ballpark Twitter picture sender. For the most part, we were very successful in completing my Quick Pitch ballpark photo mission on Twitter. If my memory of what transpired is correct though, I believe that when we sent in my picture from Globe Life Park in Arlington with the #quickpitch hashtag, I think we forgot to also tag Heidi Watney on her Twitter page so that she could see the picture of me from Globe Life Park as well. The good news is is that as far as I know, that picture of me from Globe Life Park was still included on MLB Network's Twitter page as part of the collection of ballpark photos from other fans but I don't know for certain if my picture from Globe Life Park was put on the show or not.

The good news however is that my Quick Pitch ballpark photo story does not end there. While it is still true that I don't really know if my picture from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was ever shown on Quick Pitch, I know for a fact that after tagging Heidi Watney on her Twitter page for my photo from Minute Maid Park in Houston for another installment of the Quick Pitch show, my dream of appearing on an MLB Network TV show would soon become a reality! As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again!

Having now made all the necessary corrections in putting my second ballpark picture in the proper way, the momentous day of my eventual MLB Network TV appearance came and went during the late night/early morning hours of May 1-2, my picture from Minute Maid Park would be shown to a national viewing audience for all to see! For my family and I, it was very exciting for us to say the least when lo and behold while tuning into Quick Pitch myself from our downtown Houston hotel room I was able to catch the tail end of the final Quick Pitch show from the previous evening on a laptop on the morning of Monday, May 2, 2017!  It was during this time that I saw that my picture from Minute Maid Park had been included as part of that night's episode of Quick Pitch complete with an on-air shout out my tweet from the show's host Heidi Watney!


Heidi Watney-Host of MLB Network's Quick Pitch show!
Photo Courtesy Of:Wikimedia And Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA Under CC BY-SA 2.0 License

At that point, once I saw that my picture was indeed being included as part of that night's/morning's episode of Quick Pitch, my parents and I stopped what we were doing at that time (which included brushing our teeth after having breakfast and getting ready for our next adventure on the trip to go see the Johnson Space Center) to focus our attention and listen with great anticipation for what was about to be said by Ms. Watney about my picture from Minute Maid Park that was now plastered in full view on my laptop and the big TV screen video monitor inside the network's very own Studio 21 for everyone who was tuned in to see in all of it's beautiful glory!

While my family and I were watching Heidi Watney talk about my picture from Minute Maid Park that was now being shown for all to see, it quickly became clear to me that all the hard work I had done and put in an effort to make a dream appearance on an MLB Network show come to fruition had finally paid off and was actually really happening!

I should also mention that while mostly everything about my appearance on Quick Pitch that day had gone smoothly and was very exciting up to that point, my growing excitement while watching my appearance that morning was diminished a little when it came time for Heidi Watney to give me and my family credit for sending the picture in to the show by saying the name of our Twitter Handle username When it was time for Watney to say the name of our @musickchannel Twitter Handle username, she had mistakenly through no fault of her own referred to it on-air while speaking as "At Music 'K' Channel!" At that moment for me, I knew that she had not something was wrong and that she had not said our family's last name correctly. The good news was that she did pronounce the first part of the name correctly by saying "Music."  Where she made the made the mistake however was when she actually pronounced The letter 'K' that appears at the end of the "@Musick" portion of my family's Twitter Handle username. What most people don't know about the proper pronunciation of my family's last name is that the 'K' is actually silent. When you take all those things into consideration, the proper way to say our Twitter Handle username is "at music channel."

As I just mentioned above though, the slight error in mispronunciation that was committed by Watney was done through no fault of her own at that time during the show and I'm not going to be too hard on her for it even though she did make a little mistake at that time in saying our family's last name. At least she gave it the "good college try" and actually came closer to the proper pronunciation of my last name that I have heard in previous attempts from other people I have come across such as "Moosik" or "Musik." In the future, for anybody who has difficulties with how our last name is pronounced or is just curious in general about it, a very easy way to remember how our last name is said is to just remember what is the most common thing that we all hear when we are tuned into a certain radio station? That would be music of course!



My apologies for digressing a little bit and getting a little off topic up above, but I should also mention that as far as having to watch Quick Pitch that day on a laptop instead of the TV in our hotel is concerned, I would have preferred to have seen the show on the TV in our room, but sadly MLB Network was not included as one of the channels that the hotel offered as part of their TV channel lineup viewing package. As a result, I had to settle for the next best thing which was the laptop.

All things considered however, it was definitely a thrill for me to have made an appearance on MLB Network in one form or another and make a dream of mine come true. It is something that I will most likely always remember and never forget that happened. The only other thing or experience that could top it is if MLB Network were to someday offer  tours that could be open to the general public of their studio facilities in New Jersey so that baseball fans like me could get an up close look at where all the magic happens as well as getting the chance to meet some of our favorite personalities from the network. As of right now however, as far as I know, the network does not offer any tours to the general public at this time. For the time being, while I can still dream that that may someday change or not, I can find comfort and peace in knowing that I have already done something that not too many too many before me have done. Many thanks to both MLB Network and Heidi Watney for their hard work in making my appearance from earlier this season on the show Quick Pitch possible! It was very much appreciated!


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Tim Musick (Pronounced MYOO-zik. For more information on name pronunciation, you can check my Facebook page in the "Details About You" section.)
Copyright 2017
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Sunday, August 11, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Red Solo Cup



Finally...a drink for the rest of us.



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In honor of Toby Keith and his song, here's a concoction guaranteed to impress, easy and cheap to make...the Red Solo Cup!  Here's the recipe, don't go overboard on high quality ingredients...the supermarket generic stuff will do:


INGREDIENTS


3 oz. white rum
1 oz. amaretto
3-4 oz. cranberry cocktail
Juice of 1 lime
splash of grenadine


Take rum, amaretto, lime juice, and cranberry cocktail and put in a shaker half full of ice. Shake well, pour into two red solo cups...not blue, not yellow...filled with ice. Float the grenadine on top.


Cheers!

Darryl
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Friday, August 9, 2019

A Step Into History: Johnson Space Center - Houston, Texas


This has always been a big destination on my wish list. I'm a child of the 60's and 70's. Watching the brave men of the earlier space program was a right of passage for us. Imagine it, it was less than two months before I was born that a human ever left the bonds of our planet to float around in the microgravity beyond our atmosphere.

It's more commonplace, now. Almost routine enough that tourists are already taking the trip to space but back then, it was something groundbreaking, cutting edge science, and incredibly dangerous.


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While the coast of Florida proved to be aligned just right for launches, the control center for these flights needn't be co-located in the days of modern telecommunications. A list of criteria was drawn up and 22 sites fit it but only one had the backing of the vice president from Texas, Lyndon Johnson.

Politics has a great influence on the decision to locate here.


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There is one bus that goes from downtown Houston to Johnson Space Center (JSC). It'll take about an hour and a half from our hotel. That's more time than I'm really willing to invest so, for just a few dollars more, I reserve a car from Avis for the day.

The rental office is not near our hotel. It's a couple of miles to Avis so I catch an Uber ride. It was almost my last ride as the driver ran a red light near our destination with a big van barreling down on us. As Maxwell Smart would say, "missed us by that much."

Jittery but OK, I get back to the hotel and pick up the rest of the crew. About forty minutes later, we're in the parking lot of the Johnson Space Center visitor's center. This is a large museum with various exhibits related to space and space travel.



A corner is given over to missions to Mars; a demonstration gives us a glimpse of life on the International Space Station (ISS); we can wander through a full-size replica of Skylab. It's all very interesting and, it seems to me, heavy on exhibits on how astronauts use the toilet in zero gravity conditions.



Included in the admission (AAA and AARP members get a discount so show your cards) are two tours on wheelchair accessible trams...just like the vehicles at Universal Studios or our previous Captain Morgan Distillery tour...each one going to a different historic site on the actual campus about a half mile away.

First, we board the tram to the Christopher Cross Mission Control Center. This is it, what I really came to see. The nerve center of the early space program. Gemini, Apollo, and even early shuttle missions.

This is the room where Neil Armstrong's words came in upon stepping on the Moon. Jim Lovell reported here when he had that problem on Apollo 13. We've all seen this room on the news and historic films and documentaries.



It's no longer in service, it's now a historic landmark and a preserved monument to America's space program. A guide points out different spots where different specialist would sit at their consoles to guide those early missions. The seats we're in are where VIP's such as Queen Elizabeth II sat when she came in to observe.

It's a short presentation...maybe just a tad too short...but an incredible slice of history.


The next tour takes us to the Astronaut Training Facility where a full-size mockup of the ISS is installed in a giant room. Astronauts train here for missions to the station. There are also gizmos here to emulate working in zero gravity along with a robot facility making androids to go into space.



Another mockup of the spaceship that will someday go to Mars is here to train those astronauts.

Both tours end up at Rocket Park where a few rockets and engines are on display.



Sitting in the sun is an Atlas II rocket with a Mercury capsule on top. It's really a tiny little thing.

Inside an adjacent building is another story altogether. In here is one of the few remaining, fully intact Saturn V rockets.



This is the largest rocket ever made. We're dwarfed by the five massive engines that propelled this giant into space.

It's a bit of a walk to the other end where an Apollo capsule sits at the top, just above the Command Module that provided living quarters for the three astronauts on their mission.



This particular rocket would have been designated Apollo 19 for it's mission to the Moon had the program not been scrubbed after Apollo 17.

After our break at Rocket Park, we board another shuttle back to the visitor's center. Before visiting the gift shop and after perusing the exhibits outlined above, we go outside where a full-sized replica of a space shuttle sits atop a real 747 carrier plane.



This particular plane was purchased from American Airlines by NASA during the shuttle program's years and was used to ship the shuttle back to Florida when circumstances dictated that the space plane land in California instead.

An elevator is available to take wheelchair users to any of the three levels of this display. 

We've been on a shuttle before and this one is no different. We inspect the pilot's cockpit and the cramped crew quarters before heading out to the cargo bay to see a satellite waiting to enter orbit via the Canadian arm, a space crane that is used to move heavy objects in space.



The carrier plane is new to us and we take a little more time inspecting this stripped-out former passenger plane. 

There are huge concrete weights behind the cockpit that were placed there to balance out the heavy load on top. Displays explain the difficulties and quirks of carrying a plane on top of another. Displays let you try your skills at navigating the various tasks associated with shipping a space shuttle, coast-to-coast.

Tim tries his hand at flying the entire contraption in various wind conditions at one of those displays.

It's been a fun morning turning into afternoon and we're a bit hungry.  It's time to head back to Houston, have some dinner, and pack up. Tomorrow we're heading back to the airport.

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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved